Move over Takeru Kobayashi and Bill "El Wingador" Simmons.
When the infamous Philadelphia Wing Bowl gets under way at the Wells Fargo Center on Feb. 3, South Whitehall's Martin "Rooster" Russo will join some of the world's greatest eaters at center stage.
With the help of friends and co-workers at Morey, Nee, Buck & Oswald, an accounting firm in Bethlehem Township, Russo is building a float that will carry him into the arena for the 20th annual wing-eating competition in front of some 20,000 spectators.
The contest, founded in 1993 by Philadelphia talk-radio hosts Angelo Cataldi and Al Morganti, is a lead up to the Super Bowl.
"It's huge," said Russo, 51. "My goal is to make it into the second round, and we'll go from there."
So how does a yoga-loving, business development director from South Whitehall wind up competing in a wing-eating contest against the likes of Kobayashi, six-time winner of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, and El Wingador, five-time Wing Bowl champion?
Russo, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs about 200 pounds, got in the running when last summer outside the in Macungie. He beat 29 competitors by eating 178 wings -- in 30 minutes.
Last month, at a live qualifying event for SportsRadio 94 WIP's Wing Bowl 20, at Ponzio's restaurant in Cherry Hill, N.J., he ate 2½ pounds of fresh chicken pot pie in 2½ minutes.
"I had to prove myself all over again," Russo said.
He was successful, securing a spot in the competition.
Since then, Russo's been in training -- eating a lot of Tootsie Rolls to strengthen his jaw so that he will have the stamina to outpace his competitors, which he said could number 30 or more. Last year's winner ate 255 wings.
He and his entourage also have been building his float, which will resemble a barnyard.
Russo said he would have to be in the top 10 to make it to the second round.
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime event," Russo said. "We're just planning to have the best time we can have."